Salon: Does Mitt Romney have a problem with women candidates?

A lame piece but well-timed to capitalize on the Romney/Palin dust-up. Expect plenty of linkage tomorrow from Sarahcuda supporters on Twitter and elsewhere. The case for Mitt’s alleged sexism: He ran against three women in Massachusetts and played hardball each time. In the first instance, his team helped keep a woman rival off the primary ballot; in the next, they convinced prominent Republicans to call on the state’s first woman governor to step aside in favor or a stronger candidate (namely, Mitt); and in the third, he told his Democratic woman opponent that a charge she made against him was “unbecoming,” which is supposedly chauvinistic code for “un-ladylike.” Annnnd … that’s it. One questionable comment and two demonstrations of the sort of bareknuckle tactics everyone expects from Team Romney even against an all-male field. Read the whole thing and see for yourself. In fact, even author Steve Kornacki can’t quite bring himself to accuse Romney of sexism; the furthest he’s willing to go is to say that this doesn’t, er, “look good.”

Three times in his relatively limited political career Romney has found a woman standing between him and his political goal. In each case, he ended up getting what he wanted — but it was always awkward, ugly and downright nasty, with cries of chauvinism and sexism along the way. The man just does not know how to look good while competing with a woman…

Yes, it’s true that Romney is three-for-three running against women. But it’s also true that he played with fire each time. He was able to get away with it in Massachusetts, for a variety of reasons, but the lights shine brighter — much brighter — on the national political stage. When a woman is in the race, Romney has a knack for making himself look bad — something all of America may soon discover.

Unless Kornacki’s calling on him to offer kid-gloves treatment to Palin while throwing roundhouses at Huckabee, Gingrich, etc. — which would itself be full of sexist nuance — I’m not sure what lesson Romney’s supposed to take from this. No questioning Palin’s qualifications for president, perhaps, lest it seem “demeaning,” even though a huge majority of the public questions them? What Salon’s after here, I assume, is sowing a little identity-politics discord in the enemy camp on the cheap, but even that’s a wasted opportunity given what they could have accomplished with this piece. As Karl says, the real story in the Salon piece is Romney using the GOP establishment to push other candidates aside. Grassroots conservatives bristle at the thought of him being the Beltway choice; playing up his track record of muscling others via the Republican machine would hurt him more than these weak-tea accusations of sexism. Ah well. Maybe that’s Kornacki’s next piece?

Update: To be scrupulously fair to Kornacki, it may be that all he means in asking whether Romney has a “woman problem” is that women voters might perceive him as sexist, not that his actions necessarily are being motivated by sexism. (He quotes several woman columnists from the Boston Globe to that effect.) Which is fine, I guess, but (a) it’s lame that he offers no verdict on whether the charge is fair or not, and (b) it’s still obviously an attempt to jump-start a Romney/sexism meme. If the facts are there, fine; if they’re not, say so and spare the guy a nasty smear.